Zen Keys-Thich Nhat Hanh

October 24, 2017 | Author: LeaRninG3 | Category: Zen, Kōan, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Wisdom, Mind
Share Embed Donate

Short Description

this file is on e coy.not be held responsable for it's content or interpretation...



Tmcu NHAT HANB is a Vietnamese Zen monk, a former professor at the University of Saigon, and a noted poet. He is the author of a number of works on Buddhism and has published three books in English: Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, Vietnam Poems, and Zen Poems. He is internationally known as one of the leading spokesmen of the Vietnamese Buddhist peace movement. Rosm PmLIP KAPLEAU is the director of The Zen Center at Rochester, New York, and widely recognized for his scholarship and practice of Zen. He is the author of The Three Pillars of Zen and The Wheel of Death: A Collection of Writings from Zen Buddhist and Other Sources on Death-Rebirth-Dying. Low, the translators of this volume from the French, have studied at The Zen Center at Rochester for the past seven years. They have also translated Dr. Hubert Benoit's Let Go.











ANCHOR BOOKS Anchor Press/ Doubleday Garden City, New York


Zen Keys was originally published in French as Clefs Pour Le Zen by ~ditions Seghers © ~ditions Seghers, Paris, 1973. The Anchor Books edition is the first publication in the English language. Anchor Books edition: 1974

ISBN: o-385-o8o66-z Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 74-3556 Translation Copyright © 1974 by DouBLEDAY & CoMPANY, INc.

Introduction Copyright © 1974 by Pml.IP KA.PLEAU All Rights Reserved Printed in the United States of AmericaFirst Edition




Awareness of Being The Little Book Necessary Awareness To Be Mindful



A Cup of Tea Seeing into One's Own Nature Bodhidharma's Dictum The Buddhist Revolution Not-I Things and Concepts The Principle of the Interdependence of Things The Vanity of Metaphysics Experience Itself The Moment of Awakening The Cyprus in the Courtyard The Language of Zen The Finger and the Moon "If You Meet the Buddha, Kill Him!"


17 19 21 23 27

29 30 32

34 36 37 38 40 41 43 45 47





"Go and Wash the Bowl" The Good Reply The Kung-an and Its Function The Significance of the Kung-an Chao-Chou's "No!" Entering the Circle The Mind Must Be Ripe

51 52 53 57 59 62 65

Mountains Are Mountains and Rivers Are Rivers


The Mind Seal True Mind and False Mind Reality in Itself The Lamp and Lampshade A Non-Conceptual Experience The Principle of Non-Duality Interdependent Relation


Footprints of Emptiness The Birth of Zen Buddhism Zen and the West Zen and China The Notion of Emptiness Complementary Notions Anti-Scholastic Reactions Return to the Source The A Which Is Not A Is Truly A Penetrating the Tathata Subject and Object The Three Gates of Liberation The Eight Negations of Nagarjuna The Middle Way

73 75

77 So

82 84 88 91 93 96 97 99 101 102 103 105 108 109 111 113 116


The Vijnanavada School Classification of the Dharmas Conscious Knowledge Method of Vijnanavada Alaya as the Basis The Process of Enlightenment


The Regeneration of Man Monastic Life The Retreats The Encormter The Role of the Laity The Zen Man and the World of Today Future Perspectives Is an Awakening Possible? Spirituality versus Technology

VII Lessons on Emptiness


118 119

120 123 126 128 133 135 138 140 141 142 144 147 151 155


* Introduction THE PUBLICATION in English of Thich1 Nhat Hanh's Zen Keys has particular significance for Americans. For not only is his work the first precise statement of Vietnamese Buddhism to come to us-we who have such a deep and tragic karmic connection with Vietnam-but also Thich Nhat Hanh is not an average Buddhist. He is a Zen monk, trained and developed in a Zen monastery, a man who has realized the wisdom and compassion which are the fruits of Buddhist practice. In the last fifteen years Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the leading spokesmen of the Vietnamese Buddhist peace movement, has taken himself into the market place, into the twentieth-century hell of war-ravaged Vietnam, and brought an "engaged" Buddhism into the mainstream of life of the Vietnamese masses. In the face of threats of persecution, imprisonment, and even death, he has repeatedly spoken out, urging his countrymen to avoid hatred and acrimony and insisting that the real enemy is not man but the grenades of greed, anger, and delusion in the human heart. Those Americans who believe Buddhism is a world-denying cult of inner illumination and its practice of meditation a navel1 "Thich" is not, as many suppose, the Vietnamese equivalent of "Venerable," an appellation of Buddhist monks that roughly corresponds to "Reverend," but is the shortened form of "Thich-Ca," the Vietnamese for Shakya, which is the abbreviation of Shakyamuni, the name by which the Buddha is known in Asia. It is a family name that monks assume upon ordination, replacing their own.


gazing escape from the suffe1ings of life do not know Thich Nhat Hanh or the Buddhism about which he Wlites. It is important that American readers, before delving deeply into tllis book, be aware of these aspects of its author's life. It is well to note that while Zen Keys often presents weighty aspects of Buddhist philosophy, Nhat Hanh begins his book with the concrete, practical aspects of life in a Zen monastery, where the emphasis is not on the learning of philosophic concepts but on simple labor and a life of awareness. For in Zen, intellectual learning is nothing but the studying of the menu, while actual practice is the eating of the meal. As Nhat Hanh says, the truth of existence is revealed through a deepening awareness that comes from living a life of singlemindedness, of being "awake" in whatever one is doing, There is no better laboratory for doing this "aware work" than everyday life, especially one's daily work. Yet we live in a society where the object for so many is to do as little work as possible, where the work place, whether office or home, is looked upon as a place of drudgery and boredom, where work rather than being a creative and fulfilling aspect of one's life is seen as oppressive and unsatisfying. How different is this from Zen! In Zen everything one does becomes a vehicle for self-realization; every act, every movement is done wholeheartedly, with nothing left over. In Zen parlance, everything we do this way is an "expression of Buddha," and the greater the single-mindedness and unself-consciousness of the doing, the closer we are to this realization. For what else is there but the pure act -the lifting of the hammer, the washing of the dish, the movement of the hands on the typewriter, the pulling of the weed? Everything else-thoughts of the past, fantasies about the future, judgments and evaluations concerning the work itself-what are these but shadows



and ghosts :Bickering about in our minds, preventing us from entering fully into life itself? To enter into the awareness of Zen, to "wake up," means to cleanse the mind of the habitual disease of uncontrolled thought and to bring it back to its original state of purity and clarity. In Zen it is said that more power is generated by the ability to practice in the midst of the world than by just sitting alone and shunning all activity. Thus, one's daily work becomes one's meditation room; the task at hand one's practice. This is called "working for oneself." In Zen all labor is viewed with the eye of equality, for it is nothing but the workings of a dualistically ensnared mind that discriminates between agreeable and disagreeable jobs, between creative and uncreative work. It is to root out this weighing and judging that Zen novices are set to work pulling weeds by hand, licking envelopes, or doing other seemingly unimportant "non-creative" work at the start of their training, and why the abbot himself often cleans the toilets. For true creativity is possible only when the mind is empty and totally absorbed in the task at hand. Only at the point where one is freed of the weight of self-consciousness in the complete identi£cation with work is there transcendence and the joy of fulfillment. In this type of creativity our intuitive wisdom and joy are naturally brought into play. All this does not mean, of course, that attempts at bettering working conditions and making work more meaningful, such as we are witnessing today as a reaction against robot-like mechanization of the workplace, are worthless. But for a worker constantly to resent his work or his superiors, for him to become sloppy and slothful in his working habits, for him to become embittered toward life-these attitudes do most hann to the worker himself and serve little to change his working conditions. When it's time to work one works, noth-

ZEN KEYS 4 ing held back; when it's time to make changes one makes changes; when it's time to revolt one even revolts. In Zen everything is in the doing, not in the contemplating. There is one more area in which the untrained, egodominated mind plays thief to man, and this is in terms of energy. The fatigue that grips many of us at the end of the workday is not a natural tiredness, but the product of a day filled with wasted thought and feelings of anxiety and worry, not to speak of anger and resentments openly expressed or inwardly held. These negative mental states probably do more to sap energy than anything else. In contrast, the trained Zen person moves through his daily round aware and alert. The task in hand receives its due share of his energy, but none is wasted in anxiety, fantasy, or smouldering resentment. Even at the end of a full day's work his store of energy is not exhausted. Throughout Zen Keys, Thich Nhat Hanh stresses that Awareness-and this is more than mere attentiveness -is everything. It is precisely this lack of Awareness that is responsible for so much of the violence and suffering in the world today. For it is the mind that feels itself a separated unit from life and nature, the mind dominated by an omnipresent Ego-! that lashes out to destroy and kill, to satisfy its desire for more and more at whatever cost. It is the unaware mind that breeds insensitivity to people and things, for it doesn't see and appreciate the value of things as they are, only seeing them as objects to be used in satiating one's own desires. The aware man sees the indivisibility of existence, the deep complexity and interrelationship of all life, and this creates in him a deep respect for the absolute value of things. It is out of this respect for the worth of every single object, animate as well as inanimate, that comes the desire to see things used properly, and not to be heedless or wasteful or destmc-



tive. Truly to practice Zen therefore means never to leave lights burning when they are not needed, never to allow water to run unnecessarily in the faucet, never to leave a scrap of food uneaten. For not only are these unmindful acts, but they indicate an indifference to the value of the object wasted or destroyed and to the efforts of those who made it possible for us: in the case of food, the farmer, the trucker, the storekeeper, the cook, the server. This indifference is the product of a mind that sees itself as separated from a world of seemingly random change and purposeless chaos. From a Buddhist point of view the doctrines of Impermanence and Not-1, with which Nhat Hanh deals, hold the key to resolving the anxiety of this isolated point of view. Anyone alive to the realities of life cannot but acknowledge, for example, that Impermanence is not a creation of mystical philosophers but simply a concretization of what "is." In the last hundred years this process of constant and explosive change on the social and institutional level has accelerated to a degree unknown to men of earlier ages. Almost daily the newspapers report new and dizzying crises in the world: famines and natural disasters; wars and revolutions; clises in the environment, in energy and in the political arena; crises in the world of finance and economics; crises in the increasing number of divorces and nervous breakdowns, not to speak of crises in personal health, in the mounting incidence of heart attacks, cancer, and other fatal diseases. The average person looking out on this ever-changing, seemingly chaotic world sees anything but natural karmic laws at work, nor does he perceive the unity and harmony underlying this constant and inevitable change. If anything, he is filled with anxiety, with a feeling of hopelessness, and with a sense that life has no meaning. And because he has no concrete insight into the true character of the world or intuitive understanding of it, what else



can he do but surrender to a life of material comfort and sensual pleasure? And yet right in the midst of this seemingly meaningless swirling chaos of change stands the Zen Buddhist. His equanimity is proof that he knows there is more to life than what the senses tell him-that in the midst of change there is something that never changes, in the midst of impermanence there is something always permanent, in the midst of imperfection there is perfection, in chaos there is peace, in noise there is quiet, and, finally, in death there is life. So without holding on or pushing away, without accepting or rejecting, he just moves along with his daily work, doing what needs to be done, helping wherever he can, or, as the sutras say, "In all things he is neither overjoyed nor cast down." Like the law of Impermanence, the doctrine of the Not-I is not the product of philosophical speculation but the expression of the deepest religious experience. It affirms that contrary to what we think, we are not merely a body or a mind. If not either or both, what are we? The Buddha's answer, stemming from his experience of Great Enlightenment, is ego shattering: "In truth I say to you that within this fathom-high body, with its thoughts and perceptions, lies the world and the rising of the world and the ceasing of the world and the Way that leads to the extinction of rising and ceasing." What could be grander or more reassming? Here is confirmation from the highest source that we are more than this puny body-mind, more than a speck thrown into the vast universe by a capricious. fate-that we are no less than the sun and the moon and the stars and the great earth. Why if we already possess the world in fee simple, do we try to enlarge ourselves through possessions and power? Why are we "alone and afraid in a world I never made," at times self-pitying and mean, at other times arrogant and aggressive? It is be-


7 cause our image of ourselves and our relation to the world is a false one. We are deceived by our limited five senses and discriminating intellect (the sixth sense in Buddhism) which convey to us a picture of a dualistic world of self-and-other, of things separated and isolated, of pain and struggle, birth and extinction, killing and being killed. This picture is untrue because it barely scratches the surface. It is like looking at the one eighth of an iceberg above the water and being unaware of the seven eighths underneath. For if we could see beyond the ever-changing forms into the underlying reality, we would realize that in essence there is nothing but harmony and unity and stability, and that this perfection is no different from the phenomenal world of incessant change and transformation. But our vision is limited and our intuitions weak. Nor is this the whole of it. Sitting astride the senses is a shadowy, phantomlike :figure with insatiable desires and a lust for dominance. His name? Ego, Ego the Magician, and the deadly tricks he carries up his sleeve are delusive thinking, greed, and anger. Where he came from no one knows, but he has surely been around as long as the human mind. This wily and slippery conjurer deludes us into believing that we can only enjoy the delights of the senses without pain by delivering ourselves into his hands. Of the many devices employed by Ego to keep us in his power, none is more effective than language. The English language is so structured that it demands the repeated use of the personal pronoun "I" for grammatical nicety and presumed clarity. Actually this I is no more than a :figure of speech, a convenient convention, but we talk and act as though it were real and true. Listen to any conversation and see how the stress invariably falls on the "I"-"1 said . ." "I did . . " ..I like . ." "I hate " All this plays into the hands of Ego, strengthening our servitude and enlarging our



sufferings, for the more we postulate this I the more we are exposed to Ego's never-ending demands. We cannot evade responsibility for this state of affairs by claiming ignorance, for the machinations of Ego, as well as the way to be free of them, have been pointed out time and again by the wisest of men. After all, language is our creation. It reflects our values, ideals, and goals, and the way we see and relate to the world. There are languages that do not insist on the constant repetition of the vertical pronoun for clarity or grammatical completeness. In Japanese, for example, it is possible to make sentences without the ••1" or other personal pronouns in all but a few cases. The Japanese ideal of personal behavior, which the language reflects, is modesty and self-effacement, in theory at least if not always in practice. The strong assertion of the Ego-I in contemporary American speech, as well as the decline of the passive voice in favor of the active, shows that we no longer value humility and self-effacement, if we ever did. Our relative mind of Ego, aided by language, deceives us in other ways. It constantly tempts us into distinctions and judgments that take us farther and farther from the concrete and the real into the realm of the speculative and the abstract. Take the case of an individual walking alone who suddenly hears the sound of a bell. Immediately his discriminating mind evaluates it as beautiful or weird, or distinguishes it as a church bell or some other kind. Ideas associated with a similar sound heard in the past may also intrude upon the mind, and these are analyzed and compared. With each such judgment the expedence of pure hearing becomes fainter and fainter until one no longer hears the sound but hears only his thoughts about it. Or again, we tacitly agree among ourselves to call a certain object a ..tree." We then forget that "tree" is an arbitrary concept which in no way reveals the



true identity of this object. What, then, is a tree? A philosopher might call it ultimate truth; a botanist, a living organism; a physicist, a mass of protons and neutrons swirling around a nucleus; an artist, a unique shape with distinctive coloring; a carpenter, a potential table. To a dog, however, it is nothing but a urinal. All descriptions, explanations or analyses are but a looking from one side at that which has infinite dimensions. The true nature of the tree is more than anything that can be said about it. Similarly, we tinker with time by dividing it into past, present, and future and into years, months, days, etc. This is convenient, but we need to remember that this "slicing" is artificial and arbitrary, the product of our discriminating mind, which discerns only the surface of things. Timelessness is unaccounted for. Thus, we conceive a world that is conceptual, limited, and far removed from the actual. Speaking of the way in which language falsifies reality, Korzybski, the father of general semantics, points the accusing finger at the verb "to be" as the chief offender. "The difficulty with the verb •to be,'" Korzybski is quoted as saying, "is that it implies a static, absolute quality, whereas the law of the universe is constant change. The moment one says, 'This rose is red' it has already changed into something else. Besides, to someone else the rose may appear to be pink. Better to say," adds Korzybski, "·This rose appears to me as red.' " For Zen, however, a rose is not merely red, pink, yellow, but it is all colors and at the same time it is no color. Does not a "Rose is a rose is a rose" more nearly convey the cosmic grandeur and infinite beauty of a rose than "This rose appears to me as red"? But why say anything? Enter the heart of the rosesmell it, touch it, taste it-and what is there to say except perhaps, "Ah, wonderful!" or better yet, simply, "Ahl" or best of all, just a smile-a smile that flowers.



The Zen Masters have always been alert to the snare of language, which "fits over experience like a glove," and have used language in such a way as to liberate their disciples from its bind. \Vhat are these methods? Hui-neng, the Sixth Pat:Iiarch, once taught: "If somebody asks you a question expecting 'Yes' for an answer, answer 'No,' and vice versa. If he asks you about an ordinary man, answer as if he asked about a saint, and vice versa. By this use of relatives teach him the doctrine of the Mean. Answer all his questions in this fashion and you will not fall into error." Chao-Chou (Joshu in Japanese), a famous Zen Master, was frequently asked, "Is it true that even a dog has the Buddha-nature?" the implication of the question being that if such an exalted being as man has the pure, all-embracing Buddha-nature, how can such a lowly creature as a dog also have it? To this question Chao-Chou sometimes answered, "No, it hasn't" (Mu in Japanese, Wu in Chinese), and at other times, "Yes, it has." The questioners may have been genuinely puzzled by the statement in the suh·as to the effect that all beings possess the Buddha-nature, or they may have been feigning ignorance in order to see how ChaoChou would respond. Since Buddha-nature is common to all existence, logically either answer makes no sense. But more than logic is involved here. So what is ChaoChou up to? Is he flouting the logic of language to show the monks that absolute truth lies beyond affirmation and negation, or is he, by the manner in which he utters "Yes!" or "No!" actually thrusting this Buddhanature at his questioners? In another well-known episode Nan-Chlian, the teacher of Chao-Chou, returned to his monastery one day to find some of his monks quarreling about a cat sitting in front of them. Presumably they were arguing about whether a cat, like a dog, also has the Buddhanature. Sizing up the situation at once and taking ad-



vantage of the occasion to bring home to them the truth they were obscuring, Nan-Chiian suddenly seized the cat, held it aloft and demanded, "One of you monks, give me a word of Zen! If you can I will spare the life of the cat, otherwise I will cut it in two!" No one knew what to say, so Nan-Chiian boldly cut the cat in two (not really, though; he merely went through the motions of doing so; "cutting the cat" makes the episode more vivid and dramatic) . That evening Chao-Chou, who had also been away, returned. Nan-Chiian told him what had happened and asked, "Suppose you had been there. What would you have done?" Without a word Chao-Chou took off his slippers, placed them on his head and slowly walked out of the room. "If only you had been there," said Nan-Chiian admiringly, "you would have saved the life of the cat." Now what is a word of Zen? In Zen there are what are called live words and dead ones. The admired live word is the gut word, concrete and vibrant with feeling; the dead word is the explanatory word, dry and lifeless, issuing from the head. The first unifies; the second separates and divides. Neither the monks nor Chao-Chou spoke a word, yet Nan-Chiian put down the monks and praised Chao-Chou. Why? What was the significance of Chao-Chou's putting his slippers on his head and walking out? What did N an-Chiian demonstrate by his act of "cutting" the cat in two? And say where that dead cat is 1ight now! Aren't we all dead cats whenever we argue and speculate, make gratuitous assumptions, jump to conclusions? A Chinese Zen Master once gave this problem to his disciples: "A monk is hanging by his teeth from a branch high up in a tree. His hands can't reach a branch above him nor his feet touch a branch underneath. On the ground below someone seriously asks, '\Vhat is the highest truth of Buddhism?' If he opens his mouth to speak he will fall down and possibly be



killed. Yet if he doesn't respond he evades his duty. What should he do?" This is not a teaser designed to titilate the intellectfar from it. Among other things, it points up a fundamental problem in human relations: when to speak and when to remain silent. For to spin fine words ~nd empty phrases, to embroider theories and explanationS of one kind or another can be harmful, even fatal, to one's personality. But to be silent and not speak when by so doing we can help a suffering fellow being is craven. Also, there are many forms of silence. There is the silence where one doesn't know what to say, the silence which is the better part of valor, and the silence which speaks louder than words. Which of these forms of silence was the monk's, and furthermore, was he answering the question put to him or not? These episodes or teaching methods were collected by later generations of masters and given to their students to solve as part of their training. They came to be called koan (kung-an in Chinese; literally "a public record"); that is, cases that could be relied upon as pointing to and embodying ultimate truth. They are not unlike cases at common law that establish legal precedent. One of the prizes of Zen Keys is a series of forty-three koan, appearing in English for the first time, by Tran Thai Tong, a Vietnamese who was the first king of the Tran Dynasty ( 1225-1400) in Vietnam. He practiced Zen while still reigning, and at the age of forty-one gave up his throne to his son, devoting himself thereafter to the most intensive practice of Zen. Each of the koan contains a theme, a brief commentary and a verse, all by Tran Thai Tong. Though in the style of the Mumonkan, a well-known Chinese book of koan, they nonetheless have a flavor distinctly their own. Chapter VI of Zen Keys, entitled "The Regeneration of Man," may strike sophisticated readers as naive and



perhaps even simplistic. Yet it would be a mistake to pass over lightly what lies behind the simple expression. Among other things, Thich Nhat Hanh pleads for a dialogue between East and West based upon mutual respect and understanding and not on feelings of Western superiority. These sentiments have been echoed innumerable times by thoughtful and knowledgeable Asians. We in the West must heed this wise and earnest voice speaking out of the heart of Asia if we are to avoid a third world war and the not improbable destruction of most of the human race and our planet earth. Americans especially must listen with an unprejudiced, believing heart, for not only is our karma with Vietnam and Asia deep-in one generation we have fought three land wars there-but to a large extent the fate of humanity rests upon us. To all but the obtuse it is clear that the world is at a crossroads, its very survival at stake. We need to recover our basic humanity. Pride in our technological achievements has replaced love of our fellow man, as Nhat Hanh observes. We need to purge ourselves of pride and self-seeking. Above all, we must regenerate ourselves morally and awaken spiritually, and this means becoming aware of the true nature of things and of our responsibilities to the world. The contamination of our own and the world's environment and our squandering of dwindling natural resources through over-consumption, waste, and mismanagement speak eloquently of our greed and irresponsibility. How long will the rest of the world stand by while we in America with only 6 per cent of the world's population consume 40 per cent of its resources? The energy crisis we are now experiencing may well be the :first signal of the revolt against this intolerable situation. Many in America are beginning to understand this, and even our government leaders are saying we must drastically alter our style of living. Do they really un-


derstand the spiritual implications of this? How are we to uproot the greed, anger, and wrong thinking lying at the base of our actions? How, in other words, are we to horizontalize the mast of the inflated national ego? One obvious answer is-through Zen. Not necessarily Zen Buddhism but Zen in its broad sense of a onepointed Aware mind; of a disciplined life of simplicity and naturalness as against a contrived and artificial one; of a life compassionately concerned with our own and the world's welfare and not self-centered and aggressive. A life, in short, of harmony with the natural order of things and not in constant conflict with it. The problems of pollution and energy we hear so much about have always been dealt with in Zen training. Zen, after all, speaks to the most fundamental pollution of all, the pollution of the human mind. As for an energy crisis, we have never been without one. The real energy crisis is an internal one: how to mobilize the unlimited energy locked within us-how to split the atom of the mind if you like-and use it wisely for ourselves and mankind. For it is the release of this energy that leads to awakening and Awareness. As Zen Keys points out, in the East Zen is declining due to war and the heavy inroads of materialism and technology. In the West, however, it is the disenchantment with the "good" life produced by materialism and technology that is largely fueling the current interest in Zen. For together with the realization that technology makes "major contributions to minor needs of man" is the awareness that we have become cogs in an out-of-control wheel, living by a value system that does not see man as a human being but merely as a consumer of things. If Zen is to find a permanent home in America and become a living force in the lives of Americans, it is obvious it will have to shed its East-



em cultural accretions and develop new fonns in response to the needs of our own culture and society. This Thich Nhat Hanh and other Zen-oriented Asians affinn. The outline of the new American Zen is already emerging. It is away from temple-based Zen and more in the direction of large centers where monks and laymen and women practice the Buddha's way together, with smaller affiliated communities functioning in other areas of the country. We also :find many of the more ..aware" trends in American society being incorporated into the life-style of these Zen communities. Many of these groups are eating natural foods, gardening organically, and living communally, as well as including within their Zen training such body-mind disciplines as hatha yoga and tai-chi chuan. In their religious life as well, they are beginning to create meaningful ceremonies and rituals appropriate to the American scene and the New Age. Also, in the cities members of Zen communities, carrying burlap bags, periodically clean up their neighborhoods, thereby learning humility and non-attachment. Others take such menial jobs as housecleaners, dishwashers, and garbage men for the same reasons. Their lives truly reflect the principle that '"a man is rich, not in what he possesses but in what he can do without with dignity." It would be a great pity, though, if American Zen severed its links with the great Asian traditions that spawned and nourished it; this would in effect be discarding hundreds of years of experiential knowledge of the human mind. Always there is the danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water. As the :first authoritative book in English on the Zen Buddhist tradition of Vietnam, Zen Keys is one more bright link in the chain of Asian Zen and for this reason invaluable.


Albert and Jean Low, the translators of Zen Keys from the French in which it was written, are no strangers to the world of Zen or to translations of Zen books. Both have been training in Zen at The Zen Center of Rochester for the past seven years. Before that they had studied and practiced several other spiritual traditions. Their translation of Dr. Hubert Benoit's Let Go evoked from the author a personal letter of commendation. When Thich Nhat Hanh was asked by them whether he wished to review their translation before it was published, he wrote: "I have perfect confidence in your abilities and do not feel it necessary to check your work." This confidence has not been misplaced. Zen Keys conveys the authentic "feel" and flavor of Zen. Understandably so, for it is a loving and knowledgeable translation. PHILIP KAI'LEAU

Roshi and Director, The Zen Center Rochester, New York



The Little Book. I ENTERED THE ZEN MONASTERY when I was seventeen years old. After a week's adjustment to monastic life, I presented myself before the monk who had been put in charge of me to ask him to teach me the Zen "way... He gave me a small book printed in Chinese characters and recommended I learn it by heart. Having thanked him, I retired to my room with the small book. This book-which is famous-is divided into three parts: 1) Essentials of Discipline to Apply Each Day; 2) Essential Elements of Discipline for a Novice; 3) Exhortation of the Zen Master Kuai Chan. There is no Zen philosophy in this book. The three parts treat practical problems only. The first teaches the method of mind control and concentration; the second sets down the required discipline and behavior of monastic life; the third part is a very beautiful piece of writing, an exhortation addressed to Zen disciples to encourage them in their meditations so that they will take to heart the fact that their time and life are precious and should not be vainly dissipated. I was assured that not only novices of my age must start with this book-which is called Luat Tieu in Vietnamese (Little Manual of Discipline)-but that monks of even thirty or forty years of age must also follow the prescriptions of Luat Tieu. Before entering the monastery, I had already received a little Western education, and I had the impression that the method of teaching the doctrine in the monastery was old-fashioned.



First it was necessary to learn by heart the whole book; then people were to engage in its practice, without even having been given the fundamental principles of the theory. I unburdened myself to another novice who had already been there two years. "It is the way followed here," he told me. "If you want to learn Zen, you must accept this way." I had to resign myself to it. The first part of the Little Manual, "Essentials of Discipline to Apply Each Day," contains only formulations aimed at bringing about Awareness of Being ( samyaksrmrti). Each act of the novice must be accompanied by a particular thought. For example, when I wash my hands, I must evoke this thought: "Washing my hands, I wish that the whole world should have very pure hands, capable of holding the Truth of Enlightenment." When I am sitting in the Meditation Hall, I must think: "In this upright position, I wish that all living beings should be seated on the throne of perfect enlightenment, their mind purified of all illusion and of all error." And even when I am in the toilet, I say to myself: "Being in the toilet, I wish that all living beings might rid themselves of greed, hatred, ignorance, and all other defilements." ••Essentials of Discipline to Apply Each Day" contains a limited number of similar thoughts. A ready intelligence should be able to make up others to be used on different occasions. Those proposed by the Manual are only examples; the practitioner can modify them, even change them and make them into others more suited to his needs and to his physiological and mental conditions. Suppose I should be about to use the telephone and I wish to evoke in my mind a thought capable of keeping me in a state of Awareness. This thought is not found in the Little Manual because at the time the book was written there were no telephones. I could then invent a thought like the following: "Using



the telephone, I wish that all living beings should free themselves of doubt and prejudice in order that communication between them should be readily established." When I was seventeen years o1d, I thought that the Little Manual was designed for children or for people on the fringes of Zen. I did not attach any more importance to this method than as preparation. Today, twenty-nine years later, I know that the Little Manual is the very essence of Zen and Buddhism.

* Necessary Awareness I REMEMBER A SHORT CONVERSATION between Buddha and a philosopher of his time. "I have heard tell of Buddhism as a doctrine of enlightenment. What is its method? In other words, what do you do every day?'' "We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down . . ." "What is there that is special in those actions? Everyone walks, eats, washes himself, sits down . . ." "Sir, there is a difference. When we walk, we are aware of the fact that we walk; when we eat, we are aware of the fact that we eat, and so on. When others walk, eat, wash themselves, or sit down, they are not aware of what they do." This conversation clearly expresses the Awareness of Being which in Buddhism is the secret by which man "sheds light" on his existence, produces the power of



concentration, and, finally, brings wisdom to fruition. Awareness of Being is the backbone of the Buddhist method.

To light existence? Yes, and this is the point of departure. If I live without having Awareness of this life, that amounts to not having lived. I can then say, as did Albert Camus in his novel The Outsider, I live "as one dead." The ancients used to say, "One lives in forgetfulness, one dies in a dream." How many people there are among us and around us who "live as though dead"! That is why the first thing to do is to come back to life, to wake up, to be aware of what we are, of what we do. The one who eats, who is he? And who the one who drinks? The one who sits in meditation? And who is he, the one who consumes his life in forgetfulness and negligence? To produce the power of concentration? Yes, because Awareness of Being is a discipline that helps man to realize himself. Man is a prisoner of his social sphere. He is governed by social events. He disperses himself. He loses himself. He cannot return to his integral state. In this case, to be aware of what one does, of what one says, of what one thinks, is to begin to resist invasion by the surroundings and by all the errors to which forgetfulness gives birth. When the lamp of Awareness of Being is lit, moral conscience lights up; and the passage of thoughts and emotions likewise is lit up. Respect for oneself is re-established, the shadows of illusion can no longer invade a man. From this fact, spiritual force is concentrated and develops. You wash your hands, you dress yourself, you perform everyday actions as before; but now you are aware of all your actions, words, and thoughts. This prescription is not only designed for a novice: this prescription is for everyone, including the great Enlightened Ones, even Buddha himself. And, in



fact, are not power of concentration and spiritual force themselves the characteristics of the great men of humanity?

To bring wisdom into bloomP Yes, because the ultimate aim of Zen is the vision of reality, acquired by the power of concentration. This wisdom is Enlightenment, the perception of the truth of being and of life. This is what all practitioners of Zen wish to attain.

To Be Mindful Tms PROCEss-To Light Existence, Produce the Power of Concentration, and Bring Wisdom to Blo~is called in Buddhism the "Process of the Three Studies." Sila, Samadhi, and Prafna (Discipline, Concentration, and Wisdom) are the Sanskrit terms. The word "Sila" (Discipline) must here be taken to signify Awareness of Being. Sila does not denote rules to prevent immoral actions. To be attached to rules without grasping their meaning is to take a means for an end; it is to fall into what Buddhism calls attachment to rules, one of the major obstacles to knowledge. It is not by virtue of moral conduct that one can realize Wisdom, but by maintaining body and mind in the permanent Awareness of Being. That is why the application of thoughts leading to Awareness of Being is called the "Essentials of Discipline." When a scientist works in his laboratory, he does not smoke, he does not eat sweets, and does not listen to the radio. He abstains not because he thinks that these


things are sins, but because he knows that they impede the perfect concentration of his mind on the object of his study. It is much the same in Zen Discipline: the observance of this discipline must help the practitioner to live in Awareness of Being; it does not lead to moral objectives. Zen Wisdom cannot be obtained by the intellect: study, hypothesis, analysis, synthesis. The practitioner of Zen must use all of his entire being as an instrument of realization; the intellect is only one part of his being, and a part that often pulls him away from living reality, the very object of Zen. It is for this reason that the Little Manual does not have as its object the preparation of a theory-it introduces the practitioner directly into the Way of Zen. In the monastery, the practitioner does everything: he carries water, he looks for firewood, prepares food, cultivates the garden. • . . Although he learns the way to sit in the Zen position and to practice concentration and meditation in this position, he must strive to remain constantly aware of being, even when he carries water, cooks, or cultivates the garden. He knows that to carry water is not only a useful action, it is also to practice Zen. If one does not know how to practice Zen while carrying water, it is useless to live in a monastery. The Little Manual, as I have already said, introduces the practitioner directly into the world of Zen, even if the practitioner seemingly does exactly the same things as those who do not practice the way. The Zen Master observes his student in silence, while the latter tries to "light'~ his existence. A student may have the impression that not enough attention is paid to him, but in reality his ways and his acts cannot escape the observation of the Master. The Master must know if his student is or is not "awake." In the monastery, one must be aware of all that one does. If, for example, the student shuts the door in a noisy way,


he thus proves that he is not aware of his being. Virtue does not lie exactly in the fact of closing the door gently, but in the awareness of the fact that one is in the process of closing the door. In this case, the Master simply summons his student and reminds him that he must close the door gently; that it is necessary for him "to be mindful" of himse1f. He does this not only in order that the silence of the monastery be respected, but in order to show the student that he is not in keeping with the way of Zen; this explains the absence of "acts of majestic behavior" ( uy nghi) and "subtle gestures" ( te hanh) . It is said that in Buddhism there are ninety thousand "subtle gestures" the novice must practice. These gestures and acts are the expression of the presence of the Awareness of Being. All that one says, thinks, and does in this state of conscious awareness is described as having "the taste of Zen." If a practitioner hears himself reproached for lacking the "taste of Zen" in what he says and does, he should recognize that he is being reproached for living without Awareness of Being.



Seeing into One's Own Nature IN MY MONASTERY, as in all those belonging to the Zen tradition, there is a very :fine portrait of Bodhidharma. It is a Chinese work of art in ink, depicting the Indian monk with sober and vigorous features. The eyebrows, eyes, and chin of Bodhidharma express an invincible spirit. Bodhidharma lived, it is said, in the :fifth century A.D. He is considered to be the First Patriarch of Zen Buddhism in China. It might be that most of the things that are reported about his life have no historical validity; but the personality as well as the mind of this monk, as seen and described through tradition, have made him the ideal man for all those who aspire to Zen enlightenment. It is the picture of a man who has come to perfect mastery of himself, to complete freedom in relation to himself and to his surroundings-a man having that tremendous spiritual power which allows him to regard happiness, unhappiness, and all the vicissitudes of life with an absolute calm. The essence of this personality, however, does not come from a position taken about the problem of absolute reality, nor from an indomitable will, but from a profound vision of his own mind and of living reality. The Zen word used here signifies "seeing into his own nature." When one has reached this enlightenment, one feels all systems of erroneous thought crushed inside oneself. The new vision produces in the one enlightened a deep peace, a great tranquility, as well as a spiritual force characterized by the absence of fear. Seeing into one's own nature is the goal of Zen.



Bodhidharma's Dictum BUT TO SEE INTO ONE'S OWN NATURE is not the fruit of studies and research. It is accession to Wisdom through a life lived in the very heart of reality; in a perfect awareness of being. Thus, one might say that Zen is against all speculation and all writing. Words do not carry wisdom. According to Bodhidharma, Zen is: a special transmission outside the scriptures, not based on words and letters, a direct pointing to the heart of man in order that he might see into his own nature and become an enlightened being. In the fifth century, when Bodhidharma came to China, the Chinese Buddhists were entering an era of studying Buddhist texts that had just been translated in the preceding period (a period that might be characterized as being that of translations). Buddhists were occupied more with systematizing the ideas and with forming particular Buddhist sects than with practicing meditation. The dictum thrust forward by Bodhidharma was, therefore, like a clap of thunder which awakened the Buddhists and brought them to the practical and experiential spirit of Buddhism. It is because it is like thunder that Bodhidharma's dictum seems excessive. Let us briefly examine the relations between Zen and Indian Buddhism, and we shall see that Zen is none other than Buddhism.



Bodhidharma said: Zen has been transmitted by the Buddha and has no relation with the scriptures and doctrines that you are in the process of studying [a special transmission outside the scriptures]. At first sight, it seems then that Zen must be a secret teaching, transmitted from Master to student through the generations; a doctrine that is not carried on by writing and cannot be discussed, commented upon, or spread-a spiritual heritage that no one can understand except the initiates. One would not even be able to talk about teaching it, since Zen cannot be taught, that is, taught through symbols; it passes directly from master to student, from "mind to mind." The image employed here is a seal imprinted on a mind; not a seal of wood, copper, or ivory, but a "mind seal." The word "transmission" thus denotes here the transmission of this mind seal. Zen is itself a mind seal. The things that one might find in the enormous literature of Buddhist scriptures might be of Buddhism, but not of Zen Buddhism. Zen is not found in the scriptures, because Zen "is not founded on writing." Such is the interpretation given to Bodhidharma's dictum by the majority of Zen commentators. In reality, to see in the principle "not based on writings" that which characterizes Zen and differentiates it from all the other Buddhist sects is to ignore the very close ties existing between Zen and primitive Buddhism -above all the Mahayana Buddhist system-as well as the historical facts concerning the birth and development of Zen. The negative atttitude toward the description of ultimate reality by words is common to all Buddhist doctrine. The dictum used by Bodhiclharma is only a drastic way of bringing people to this original altitude which underlines the importance of direct


spiritual experience and discredits intellectual speculation.

The Buddhist Revolution BunnmsM WAS BORN toward the end of the sixth century B.c. The word "Buddhism" comes from the Sanskrit verb Budh, which in the Vedic scriptures foremostly signifies "to know," then "to wake up." The one who knows, the one who wakes up, is called Buddha. The Chinese have transiated the word "Buddha" as "the awakened man." Buddhism is, therefore, a doctrine of awakening, a doctrine of knowledge. But Buddha made it known from the beginning that this awakening, this knowledge, can only be acquired by the practice of the "Way" and not by studies and speculation. At the same time one catches sight of another particular aspect of Buddhism: salvation, in Buddhism, comes about by wisdom and not by grace or melit. The entry of Buddhism into Indian history must be considered as a new vision concerning man and life. This vision was expounded first as a reaction against the Brahmanic conception that dominated Indian society at the time. This is why the doctrine of Buddhism, reacting 'against the Brahmanic thought and society, is ve1y clearly of a revolutionary nature. What was this society? From the intellectual standpoint, the authority of the Brahmanic tradition dominated all: the Vedic revelation, the divine supremacy



of Brahma, and the miraculous power of sacrifice, were the three principal fundamentals one could not dispute. From the standpoint of belief, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva were the object of all the cults. From the philosophical standpoint, the thoughts of the Vedas and Upanishads were the basis of all philosophical concepts. Sankhya, Yoga, and the six philosophical schools were born and were developed upon this basis. Buddhism was thoroughly opposed to this Vedic authority and to all the points of view stemming from it. From the standpoint of belief, Buddhism rejected all deisms and all forms of sacrifice. From the social point of view, Buddhism combated the caste system, accepting the Untouchables in the Orders at the same level as a king. (Buddha, having met an Untouchable who carried excrement, brought him to the edge of the river to wash him, then afterwards took him with him and accepted him into the Buddhist community, despite the protests of the others.) From the intellectual standpoint, it rigorously rejected the concept of I ( Atma), which is the very heart of Brahmanism. One can see how Buddha reacted against the currents of thought of his time by reading, for example, the Brahmajasutta, which is found in the series The Long Discourses ( Dighanikaya) . His opposition to Brahmanic thought must be regarded primarily as a reaction, a revolt, rather than as an effort to present the Buddhist point of view. This total opposition to Brahmanism does not signify that all the thoughts contained in the Vedas and Upanishads are erroneous or contrary to truth. This opposition is a clap of thunder aimed at giving a great shock to change the customs, the manners, and the modes of thought that enclosed man in an impasse. It is because Brahmanism considers the concept of Atma (I) as a basis for its methodology and its ontol-



ogy, that Buddha expounded the doctrine of the Anatma (the Not-!). What did Buddha mean? This 1 of which you speak, nv matter whether it be the great I or small I, is only a pure concept which does not correspond to any reality. That is what Buddha meant. If we think in ontological terms, we shall say that the doctrine of the Not-! was considered by Buddha as a truth opposing the doctrine of I, which is wrong. But if we think in methodological terms, we shall see immediately that the notion of Not-1 is an antidote aimed at liberating man from the prison of dogma. Before examining the problem of truth and falsehood, it is necessary to examine the problem of the attitude and the method. This allows us to say that the notion of Not-! was born initially in reaction to the notion of the Brahmanic I, and not as a discovery which had nothing to do with the thought of the time. Yes, initially, it was a simple reaction; but one that was to serve later as the point of departure for the presentation of a new Wisdom.

* Not-I are very frequently used in Buddhism to upset habits and prejudices. This characteristic trait of Buddhism is manifested clearly in Zen. Buddha used the notion of the Not-! to upset and to destroy; but, later, he used it to expound his doctrine of Awakening. It can thus also be said that the notion of Not-! is the point of departure of Buddhism. DRASTIC METHODS




The Buddhist scriptures often speak of the "Not-I" nature of all phenomena. Things do not possess an 'T' ( Sarva dharmas nairatmya) . This means that nothing contains in itself an absolute identity. This means a rejection of the principle of identity which is the basis of formal logic. According to this principle, A must be A, B must be B, and A cannot be B. The doctrine of the Not-I says: A is not A, B is not B, and A can be B. This is something that shocks people; something that invites people to re-examine themselves. In order to understand the expression Not-I (Anatma), the concept of Impermanence (Anitya) in Buddhism must be considered. All is impermanent, because all is in a state of perpetual change. A thing does not remain the same during two consecutive ksanas (the ksana being the shortest period of time in Buddhism) . It is because things transfonn themselves ceaselessly that they cannot maintain their identity, even dming two consecutive ksanas. Not being able to fix their identity, they are Not-!; that is to say, devoid of absolute identity. Not having an identity, A is no longer the A of the preceding ksana; this is why one says that A is not A. Impermanence is only another name for Not-I. In time, things are impermanent; in space they are devoid of identity. Not only are physical phenomena impennanent and devoid of identity, but the same is true even for physiological phenomena, as for example our body, and psychic phenomena, such as our feelings. However, Impermanence and Absence of Identity are by no means truths taken from reality with the intent to found a doctrine of Action. Many people, who are not conscious of this fact, say that Anatma and Anitya are the basis for a negative and pessimistic moral doctrine. To say, "If all things are impermanent



and devoid of identity, it is not worth the trouble to struggle so hard in order to obtain them," is to misunderstand the true spirit of Buddhism. We know that Buddhism aims at salvation through the means of Wisdom. It is therefore necessary to examine the Buddhist doctrine from the point of view of the problem of understanding, and not hastily to embrace a philosophy of Action. lmpetmanence and Absence of Identity must be studied as guiding plinciples with a view to Understanding.

* Things and Concepts THE PRINCIPLE of Non-Identity btings to light that enormous chasm that opens between things and the concept we have of them. Things are dynamic and living, while our concepts of them are static and poor. Look, for example, at a table. We see the table; we have the impression that the table in itself and the concept of table that is in our mind are identical. In reality, what we believe to be a table is nothing other than our concept of the table, while the table in itself is something else entirely. Some scant notions-wood, of brovm color, hard, being three feet high, old, etc.-bling about this concept of a table in us. The table in itself is not so scanty in reality. For example, a nuclear physicist would tell us that the table is not a piece of static matter, that it is constituted of a multitude of atoms whose electrons move like a swarm of bees, and that if we



could put these atoms next to each other, we would have a mass of matter smaller than a finger. This table, in reality, is always in transformation; in time as well as in space it is connected to other things that we might call non-table. It depends upon them so closely that if we should take from the table all that which is nontable, the table itself would no longer exist. The forest, the tree, the saw, the hammer, the cabinetmaker, for example, are part of this non-table, and there are still other elements that are in relation to this non-table, such as the parents of the cabinetmaker, the bread that they eat, the blacksmith who makes the hammer, and so on. If we know how to look at the table in its relationship with all this non-table, we can see in it the presence of all the non-table. We can say that the existence of the table implies, or demonsb·ates, the existence of that which is non-table; that is to say, of the entire universe. This idea is expressed in the Avatamsaka system of Buddhism by the notion of the "multi-inter-origin" of things. A notion in which the one is equal to the all, and the all equal to the one.

The Principle of the Interdependence of Things THE PRINCIPLE of cause and effect is called in Buddhism the pdnciple of "inter-origin." The birth, growth, and decline of things depend on a number of conditions and not upon a single one. These conditions are called pratyayas. The presence of a thing (dharma) implies



the presence of all other things. The enlightened man sees this thing not as a separate entity but as a complete manifestation of reality. A Vietnamese Zen monk of the twelfth century, Dao Hanh, said, "If it is of existence, everything exists, even a speck of dust; if it is of emptiness, eve1ything is empty, even this universe." The doctrine of Non-Identity aims at bringing to light the inter-dependent nature of things; at the same time it demonstrates to us the fact that the concepts we have of things, as well as the categories such as existence/non-existence, unity/plurality, etc. do not faithfully reflect reality and cannot convey it. It shows us that the world of concepts is other than the world of reality in itself. It forewarns us that conceptual 1-"'lowledge is not the perfect instrument for studying truth; that our words are incapable of expressing the truth about that which concerns ultimate reality.

The Vanity of Metaphysics THESE PRELIMINARY REMARKS have a direct relationship with Zen; we can say that they constitute the point of departure of Buddhism and at the same time of Zen Buddhism. If concepts do not represent reality, conceptual knowledge of reality must be considered elToneous. That is demonstrated many times in Buddhism. Buddha always told his disciples not to spend their time and energies in metaphysical speculation. Each time he was



asked a question of a metaphysical kind, he remained silent. He directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world he said, "Whether the world be finite or infinite, whether it be limited or unlimited, the problem of your salvation remains the same." Another time he said, "Suppose a person should be shuck by a poisoned arrow and that the doctor wished to take out this arrow immediately. Suppose that the wounded person did not want the arrow removed before having received certain information: who had shot it? what is the name of the bowman? his age? who are his parents? for what reason had he fired on him? and so on. What do you think would happen? If one were to wait until all these questions had been answered, I fear that the person would be dead beforehand." Life is short; it must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculations which will not be able to bring us the Truth. But if conceptual knowledge is fallible, what other instrument shall we use in order to grasp reality? According to Buddhism, one can only reach reality through direct expe1ience. Study and speculation are based on concepts. In conceptualizing we cut up reality into small pieces which seem to be independent of one another. This manner of conceiving things is called

imaginative and discriminative knowledge ( vikalpa) in the Vijnanavada Mahayanist sect. The faculty which, on the contrary, directly experiences reality without passing through concepts is called non-discriminative and non-imaginative Wisdom ( nirvikalpajnana). This Wisdom is the fruit of meditation. It is a direct and perfect knowledge of reality, a form of knowledge in which one does not distinguish subject and object, a form of knowledge that cannot be conceived by the intellect and expressed by language.

* Experience Itself at my house and I invite you to have a cup of tea. You take your cup, you taste the tea which is contained in the cup, and you drink a little of it. You seem to take pleasure in the tea. You put your cup on the table and we continue our conversation. Now, suppose that I should ask you what you think of the tea. You are going to use your memory, your concepts, and your vocabulary in order to give a description of your sensation. You will say, for example, "It is very good tea. It is the best Tieh Kuan Ying tea, manufactured at Taipei. I can still taste it in my mouth. It refreshes me." You could express your sensation in many other ways. But these concepts and these words describe your direct experience of the tea; they are not this experience itself. Indeed, in the direct experience of the tea, you do not make the distinction that you are the subject of the experience and that the tea is its object; you do not think that the tea is the best, or the worst, of the Tieh Kuan Ying of Taipei. There is no concept or word that frames this experience, this pure sensation resulting from experience. You can give as many descriptions as you wish, but it is only you who witness this direct experience of the tea that I have given you. When someone listens to you he can only recreate for himself a certain sensation, basing this on experiences that he might have had himself in the past concerning tea. And you yourself, when you try SuPPOSE THAT WE ARE TOGETHER



to describe your experience, are already no longer in the experience. In the experience, you are one with the tea, there is no distinction between subject and object, there is no evaluation, there is no discrimination. This pure sensation can be presented as an example of nondiscriminative knowledge. It is that which introduces us to the heart of reality.

* The Moment of Awakening To REACH TRUTH is not to accumulate knowledge, but to awaken to the heart of reality. Reality reveals itself complete and whole at the moment of awakening. In the light of this awakening, nothing is added and nothing is lost; but emotions that are based on concepts can no longer affect a man. If Bodhidharma is the ideal man, it is because his image is that of a hero who has broken the chains of illusion that enclose man in the world of emotions. The hammer that is used to break these chains is the practice of Zen. The moment of awakening is marked by an outburst of laughter. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victmy. It is, rather, the laughter of one who, after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one moming in the pocket of his coat. One day Buddha was standing in front of the assembly at Vautours Mountain. Everyone was waiting for the daily lesson, but he remained silent. After some


time, he lifted his right hand which held a flower, all the while looking at the assembly without saying a single word. Each looked at him without understanding at all. Only one monk looked at Buddha with sparkling eyes and smiled. Buddha then said, "I possess the treasure of the vision of the perfect doctrine, I have the marvelous spirit of Nirvana, I have the reality without impurity, and I have transmitted them to Mahakasyapa." The monk who smiled was, indeed, Kasyapa, a great disciple of Buddha. Kasyapa reached the Moment of Awakening when Buddha raised his flower. At the same time he received the "mind seal" of Buddha, to use the Zen terminology. Buddha had transmitted his Wisdom from mind to mind; he had taken the seal of his mind and had imprinted it on the mind of Kasyapa. This smile .of Kasyapa is not a great outburst, but it is of the same nature as the outburst of laughter of the Zen Masters. Kasyapa arrived at Awakening thanks to a flower; there are Zen Masters who have obtained their Awakening through a resounding cry and others through a terrible kick.





* The Language of Zen THE ESSENCE OF ZEN is Awakening. This is why one does not talk about Zen, one experiences it. But Awakening is a great phenomenon that radiates like the sun. The "awakened" man is recognizable by particular signs. First of all is liberty; he does not allow himself to be influenced by the vicissitudes· of life, by fear, joy, anxiety, success, failure, etc. Then there is the spiritual force that shows itself in calmness, the ineffable smile, and serenity. It can be said without exaggeration that the smile, the look, the word, and action of the awakened man constitute the language of Awakening. This language is employed by Zen Masters to guide practitioners. A Zen Master uses concepts and words like everyone else; but he is neither conditioned nor captivated by these concepts and these words. The language of Zen always aims at destroying the habits of those who only know how to think by concepts. It tends to provoke crises, whose function it is to bring to fruition the precious moment of Awakening. Let us examine two fragments of conversation: (1)

Chao-Chou (to Nan-Chiian): What is the Way? N an-Chiian: It is our everyday mind. Chao-Chou:

In that case, is it necessary to realize it?


The intention to realize the Way is something opposed to the Way itself.


Chao-Chou: If one has no intention, how can one know that it is the Way? Nan-Chiian:


The Way does not depend on what one knows or on what one does not know. If one knows it, this knowledge is only made up of speculative ideas. If one does not know it, this ignorance is not different from inanimate things. If you get to the state of non-doubt, you will see open in front of you an unlimited universe in which things are only one. How can one discriminate in this undiscriminating world?

A monk asks Zen Master Chao-Chou: What was Bodhidharma's intention when he came to China? Chao-Chou: Look at the cyprus in the courtyard.

The first conversation aims at showing the obstacles created by conceptual methods and, at the same time, engaging the questioner in the way of non-discriminative realization. The second conversation aims at shaking loose the habit of conceptualization .and creating the shock necessary to bring about Awakening. H the mind of the man is ripe, Enlightenment can occur in him. A Zen Master who has obtained Awakening possesses an extraordinary capacity to understand the mentality of students working under his direction. It is be-



cause he well understands the mentality of his disciple that he can recommend to him effective methods to initiate him into the world of Awakening. The language of Zen is one of these ways. Aimed at helping the practitioner, this language must: 1.

Possess the power of liberating the man from prejudices and attachments to knowledge;


Be suitable to the man to whom it is addressed;

Be a skillful and effective method.

* The Finger and the Moon REALITY CAN ONLY BE· LIVED and experienced, Buddhist doctrine would never have as an aim the description of reality; the doctrine serves only as a method, as a guide, to the practitioner in his experience of this reality. The Sutra "The Perfect Awakening" (Mahavaipulyapurnabuddha sutra) says: "All doctrines taught by Buddha must be understood as a finger pointing to the moon." To show the moon, we make use of the finger; but we must not confuse the finger and the moon, because the finger is not the moon. Skillful means -in Sanskrit, upaya-are things created with the intention of guiding people in their efforts toward Awakening. If these means are taken as ends, that is to say, as the description of Awakening or as Awakening itself, they cannot play their useful role; on the contrary, they become a sort of permanent prison. As soon as one



thinks that the finger is the moon itself, one no longer wants to look in the direction the finger is pointing. The "skillful means" here can be a verbal declaration or a simple gesture. The great Masters possess what Buddhism calls the Wisdom of the Skillful Ways ( Upaya-jnana), or capacity to create and employ different methods suitable for different mentalities and different occasions. The conversations between ChaoChou and Nan-Chiian, for example, are some "skillful means." The cyprus in the courtyard and the :Bower shown by Buddha in silence are equally skillful means, But these means are only truly skillful if they are suitable to the particular circumstances. They must be effective and for this reason should respond exactly to the real needs and to the particular mentality of those whom they seek to guide. If the Master is not capable of understanding the mentality of the student, he will no longer be able to create these skillful and effective means. A single means cannot be employed in all circumstances. Thus, the Master must create many others by relying on his understanding of the mentality of individuals or of groups-in Buddhism one speaks of the 84,000 entrances to reality. Zen Buddhism underlines the extreme importance of the effectiveness and the skillfulness of the means employed by Zen Masters seeking to bring to fruition the Awakening of their disciples.

* cclf You Meet the Buddha, Kill Himr ONE OF THE GREATEST POTENTIALITIES of the skillful means is to free beings from their prison of knowledge and prejudice. Man is attached to his knowledge, to his habits and to his prejudices; the language of Zen must be capable of liberating him. In Buddhism, knowledge constitutes the greatest obstacle to Awakening. This obstacle is called the obstacle of knowledge. What is referred to here is knowledge based on concepts. If we are trapped by this knowledge, we shall not have the possibility of realizing Awakening in us. The Sutra of the Hundred Parables tells the story of a young widower who was living with his five-year-old son and who, one day, returned home to find his house burned down and his child lost. Near the destroyed house there was the charred corpse of a child that he believed was his, and in this belief he wept over his child, then set about the cremation of the body, according to the Indian rites. He kept the ashes of the child in a bag which he carried with him day and night, whether he was working or whether he was resting. Now, his son had not perished in the fire but had been taken off by brigands. One day the child escaped and returned to his father's house. He arrived at midnight, when his father was about to go to bed, still carrying the famous bag. The son knocked at the door. "Who are you?" asked the father. "I am your son." "You lie. My son died some three months ago." And the father persisted in this belief and would not open the door. In



the end the child had to depart, and the poor father lost forever his beloved son. This parable shows that when we have acknowledged a certain thing to be the absolute truth and cling to it, we can no longer accept the idea of opening the door, even if truth itself is knocking at it. The Zen practitioner must therefore strive to liberate himself from his attachment to knowledge and to open the door of his being in order that truth might enter. His Master must also help him in these efforts. Zen Master Lin Chi once said: "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet the Patriarch, kill the Patriarch." For the one who only has devotion, this declaration is terrible; it confuses him completely. But its effect depends on the mentality and capacity of the one who hears. 1 If the man is strong, he truly will have the capacity to liberate himself from all authority, whatever it might be, and to accomplish in himself ultimate truth. Truth is reality itself and not concepts. If we cling to a certain number of concepts and consider them as being reality, we lose reality. This is why it is necessary to ..kill" the concepts of reality in order that the reality itself can be realized and reveal itself. To kill the Buddha is without doubt the only way to see the Buddha. The concept that one has formed of the Buddha impedes one from seeing the Buddha himself. 1 "My friends of the Dharma Way, if you wish to acquire a correct view of reality, do not allow yourself to be deceived by anyone. When you meet someone, either going out or returning, you must kill him. If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet the Patriarch, kill the Patriarch. If you meet the Saint, kill the Saint. This is the only way by which you might be liberated, free and independent."Conversations of Lin Chi.


and Wash the Bowl"

To RETUfu~ HOME, to see into one's ovvn nature, is the end aimed at by the practitioner. But how is one to see into one's own nature? It is necessary to bring light to one's existence, to live life, to render present and permanent the awareness of being. Put in another way, it is necessruy that one sees the cyprus in the courtyard. If one does not see the presence of the cyprus in his own garden, how can one see into his own nature? The Zen Master who has obtained Awakening is a man with eyes open to living reality; it is he who, after years lost in the world of concepts, has decided to come to see the cyprus in the courtyard and his own nature. Hence, he crumot allow his disciple to continue to wander in the world of concepts and thus lose his own life, lose Awakening. This is why the Master feels compassion each time his disciple is content to pose questions on principles of Buddhism, on the Dharmakaya, on the Tathata, etc. "This man," he thinks, "still wishes to engage in the search for reality through concepts." And he does his best to tear his student from the world of ideas and to put him in the world of living reality. Look at the cyprus in the courtyard!

Look at the cyprus in the courtyard! One day a monk asked Master Chao-Chou to speak to him about Zen. Chao-Chou asked: "Have you finished your breakfast?" "Yes, Master, I have eaten my breakfast." "Then go and wash the bowl." "Go and wash the bowl." This is also, "Go and live


with Zen." Instead of giving the questioner explanations about Zen, the Master opened the door and invited the man to enter directly into the world of the reality of Zen. "Go and wash the bowl." These words contain no secret meaning to explore and explain; it is a very simple, direct, and clear declaration. There is no enigma here, nor is this a symbol, eitl1er. It refers to a very concrete fact.

The Good Reply BunnmsT TERMS, such as tathata (reality in itself), svabhava (own nature), dharmakaya (the body of ultimate reality), nirvana (extinction), etc., suggest concepts that have nothing to do with living reality. Zen Buddhism does not consider abstractions and symbols as being important. What is important is reality itself, Awakening, Awareness of Being. It can be understood why questions that have been asked about the tathata, Buddha, and dharmakaya have been turned inside out by many Zen Masters. Let us take the case of a question that has been put many times by students of Zen to their Masters: "What is the Buddha?" Here are some of the answers given: "The Buddha? He is in the sanctuary." "He is made of clay and covered with gold." "Don't talk nonsense." "The danger comes from your mouth." "We are surrounded by mountains."



"Look at this man who exposes his breast and walks with bare feet." These replies embarrass us perhaps. But the man who has lived in Awareness of Being can open the way to Awakening by one of these replies, and the man lost in forgetfulness can be awakened by the same reply. He who was busy wandering in the world of abstractions can sink back into the heart of reality because of such a reply.

* The Kung-an and Its Function rs SAID, nearly 1,700 declarations or short conversations between Zen Masters and their disciples which serve as kung-an. 2 One understands a kung-an as a sort of meditation theme, although again it is not exactly a theme. Kung-an, a Chinese word, means "official document," or a "juridicial document,"' or "a document of official value." Sometimes one uses, instead of kung-an, the words co tac ( kou tso), or thoai dau (hua t'ou), which mean respectively "classical formats" and "the nub of a conversation." The kung-an are used as training subjects in Zen; the practitioner uses kung-an for meditation until his mind comes to Awakening. It can be said arbitrarily that the kung-an is like a mathematical problem that the student must resolve by furnishing a reply. However, a big difference exists between the kung-an and the mathTHERE ARE, IT


In Japanesc it is called a koan; in Vietnamese, cong-an.



ematical problem-the solution of the mathematical problem is included in the problem itself, while the response to the kung-an lies in the life of the practitioner. Put in another way, the kung-an is a useful instrument in the work of Awakening, like a pick is a useful instrument in working on the ground. What is got from working on the ground depends on the man who works on the ground and not on the pick. The kung-an is not an enigma to resolve; this is why one cannot truly say that it is the theme or subject of meditation. Being neither a theme nor a subject, the kung-an is only a skillful means that helps the practitioner to reach his goal. Kung-an were in vogue during the T'ang Dynasty. Each Zen practitioner had a kung-an to work on. But before this period, Zen Masters did not need kung-an. The kung-an is, therefore, not something absolutely indispensable to the practice of Zen. It is, more or less, a skillful means created by Zen Masters in order to help people who work under their direction. But the kung-an can also become a great obstacle to Awakening if the practitioner thinks that truth is hidden in the kung-an and that one can interpret it in conceptual terms. Zen Master Hakuin (a Japanese monk of the Rinzai sect) used to lift his hand and ask his disciples, "What is the sound of one hand?" That is a kung-an. One reflects. One wants to know what is the sound emitted by one hand. Is there a profound significance hidden in this question? If there is not, why has Hakuin asked the question? And if there is one, how must it be got out? In fact, like a train that always sees the rail in front of it and rushes forward, our intellect always establishes logical principles in advance of itself and engages in the search for tmth. Now,



here, the rails are suddenly cut-taken up. Habit still tries to establish imaginary rails in order that the train of the intellect can rush forward as before. But watch out! To go forward here is to fall into the abyss! "What is the sound of one hand?" Such a question is the ax that cuts the rails in front of the train -it destroys the habit of conceptualization in us. And if the fruit is ripe, that is to say, if our spirit is well-prepared, this blow of the ax will be able to liberate us from the ties that have bound us for so many years to the world where we "live as though dead," and bring us back to the heart of living reality. But if we are not ready to receive it, we shall continue our vain pilgrimage in the world of concepts. The question is there in front of us, "What is the sound of one hand?" We speculate as much as we can, we imagine this famous "sound of one hand" in a thousand different ways, and what we find we present to the Master with the hope of replying to his ideal But the Master always says "No!" Arriving then at an impasse, we are on the point of going mad, of losing our mind because of this accursed kung-an. And it is exactly at this moment of terrible crisis that the return to ourself begins. Then "the sound of one hand" can become a sun which dazzles our whole being. Hsiang-Yen was a disciple of Master Po Chang. He was intelligent, but on the death of his Master he had not yet obtained Awakening. He joined Master WeiShan and worked under his direction. Wei-Shan asked him one day, "Speak to me about birth and death. What were your face and your eyes when you were not yet born?'' Hsiang-Yen, having vainly tried to give a reply, retired to his room, reflected day and night, reread the texts he had studied, searched through the notes he had made during the time of Po Chang, but was unable to find a reply. When he presented himself to


Wei-Shan, the latter said to him, "I do not want to know what knowledge you have acquired; I only want to learn what is your spiritual vision. Well then, tell me something." Hsiang-Yen replied, "I do not know what to say, Master. Please teach me something." But Wei-Shan replied, "What use will it be to you if I should tell you my own view?" Hsiang-Yen felt desperate, be thought that his Master did not whole-heartedly want to help him. He burned all the books he possessed and went off to a remote part. He said to himself, "What is the good of subjecting myself to so much trouble to study Buddhism? It is not necessary to be a man well-versed in doctrine. I want to live the life of a simple monk." One day, as be was in the process of preparing the ground to sow some beans, his fork dislodged a pebble which struck against a bamboo stem and went "crack." This sound "crack" brought about Awakening in him. What Wei-Shan called "your face and your eyes before your birth" suddenly became dazzling in his mind. He had attained Awakening. Wei-Shan refused to introduce Hsiang-Yen into the world of the intellect. He wanted Hsiang-Yen to return to his true nature. And, in fact, the possibility of Awakening only came to Hsiang-Yen when he abandoned the enterprises of the intellect. The kung-an, in this case, had done its work well. In an effective way, it put the practitioner back on the road of spiritual experience, and created a crisis aimed at releasing Awakening.

* The Significance of the Kung-an WE HAVE DISCUSSED the function of the kung-an rather than its signiflcance. But a kung-an, to be effective, must at least signify something for the person to whom it is given. When the Master proposes a kung-an for his disciple it is necessary he be certain that this kung-an is suitable to the disciple. Put in another way, the kung-an must be a "skillful means." The kung-an cannot be any random word enclosing a contradiction designed to derail the practitioner in his search for truth by way of speculation. For this reason, when he receives a kung-an, the practitioner is tempted to discover some significance in it. This desire to decipher the kung-an always takes him off into the labyrinth of philosophical reflection. It is first necessary to recognize that a kung-an only has significance when it is addressed to a determined person or to a determined group. Outside of this person, or this group, the kung-an no longer has significance. This is the principle of skillful means. Each kung-an is applied to a particular case. If a kung-an is used for more than one person, it is only because those people resemble each other in their ,mentality and psychological conditions. The significance of a kung-an, therefore, only exists for the person concerned and not for others. To have significance, a kung-an must have significance fo1· someone. This significance cannot be expressed in concepts or reduced to concepts. If one at-



tributes the significance to concepts and ideas hidden in the kung-an, then the kung-an does not indeed possess any of this sort of significance. The significance of the kung-an is the effect produced by the kung-an itself on the mind of the one who receives it. If a kung-an is not adapted to the one for whom it is destined, it no longer has significance, even if it should come from the mouth of a Zen Master. A monk walking through a market heard a butcher say to his customer, "'This meat is of prime quality." And the mind of the monk was enlightened, he obtained Awakening. Undoubtedly the butcher is not a Zen Master and what he said was not meant to help the monk, but by chance, this declaration about the quality of the meat struck the mind, already ripe, of the monk and produced a great effect. Only the one newly enlightened saw the significance and effect of the kung-an, while the butcher, who was its author, was totally unaware of what had happened. The Master must know the mentality of his disciple well in order to be able to propose an appropriate l."Uilg-an. Every Master meets success, but he also knows failure, and he fails each time he proposes an inappropriate kung-an. When a former kung-an-that is to say a kung-an already proposed to another person-is recounted to us, it can sometimes happen that we reach enlightenment ourselves; all that is necessary is that the kung-an is suitable to us and our mind is ripe. If the kung-an does not produce any effect on us, it can be for two reasons: the first is that the kung-an is not destined for us; the second is that we are not yet ready to receive it. In either case, it is necessary to allow the kung-an to act and not to make efforts at deduction and reasoning in order to find in it a conceptual significance. The kung-an only has significance



for the one who is in the "circle of circtnnstances.'~ If we are outside this circle, it can have no meaning for us at present. Perhaps one day we shall be within the circle; that is to say, we shall find ourselves in exactly the same condition as the one to whom the • kung-an is presently addressed. But while waiting we are still outside the circle. What we must do in this case is to sow this kung-an in the soil of our spiritual life and water it like a plant with the water of our Awareness of Being. One day it will offer to us the :Hower of Awakening.

Chao-Chou's "Nor A MONK ASKED CHAo-CHou, "Does a dog have the nature of Awakening?" "No," said the Master. Another time, another monk asked him, "Does a dog have the Awakening nature?" Chao-Chou replied: "Yes." Why two contradictory replies to the same question? Because of the difference of the mentality of the two questioners. The answers "yes" and "no" must here be considered above all as skillful means, aiming at producing appropriate effects on the mind of the practitioners. Each reply does not claim to be an objective butb. On the conceptual level, objective truth is on the side of the word "yes" because in Mahayana Buddhist circles it is said that every being has the Awakening nature. But in the non-conceptual world of living truth the word "yes" is no longer a concept that is opposed to the concept "no." The words "yes" and "no"



act here on the practitioner in a different way: this is why their "significance" can only be received subjectively by the mind of the practitioner concerned. The "no" of Chao-Chou is employed by a number of Masters as a kung-an for their students. Let us listen, for example, to Master Wu Mens in his work Wu Men Kuan:

In order to come to Zen it is necessary to go through the gates of the patriarchs. To attain Awakening it is necessary to get to the bottom of the mind. If you cannot pass through the gates of the patriarchs, if you cannot get to the bottom of your mind, you will remain forever ghosts clinging to plants and grass. But what is the gate of the patriarchs? This single word "no" is indeed the gate for the whole school of Zen. The one who can pass through this gate will be able not only to meet Chao-Chou, but even to walk hand-inhand with all the other patriarchs. He will see things with the same eyes, hear things with the same ears. Is that not a great joy? Is there among you someone who wishes to pass through this gate? If there is someone, I invite him to pick up the doubt mass of his body, with its 360 bones and its 84,000 pores, and go in search of this "no" day and night, without a second's respite. Do not understand this "no" as Nothingness; do not take it to be a concept of non-being, as the opposite of being. It is necessary to swallow it as you would swallow a ball of red-hot iron that you cannot bring up. It is necessary to rip out all the knowledge stored up in the course of long previous years; one must ripen slowly. One day inner and outer will be found to be one and you will wake up. As a dumb person who dreams, you will keep what you 3

A Chinese monk, born at Hangchow, who died in




have obtained to yourself, without being able to communicate it to anyone. Awakening will make the ve1y earth and sky tremble. It will be as if you have in your hands the precious sword of Kan-u. 4 When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha; when you meet the Patriarch, kill the Patriarch. You will come to absolute freedom at the very edge of the precipice of life and death, and you will walk in the six Realms 0 and in the four species, 6 all the while remaining in Samadhi.T How are we to reach this state? There is only one way: mobilize the energy of your whole being and pick up this "no" without being interrupted for a single moment. Awakening will come, like the wick of the lamp which is lit at the very moment of contact with the flame. Listen: Buddha-nature of the dog, Is the official decree, is the concrete theme; But if you meddle with concepts of being and . not-being, You will lose your life. This poem of Wu Men has become a great kung-an itself. What does Wu Men mean when he says, " . Pick up the doubt mass of [your] body, with its 360 bones and its 84,000 pores, and go in search of this 'no' day and night, without a second's respite?" It is so simple! He says that we must bring light to our existence. We must not allow it to be swallowed up by A hero of the Chu Dynasty in China. In ascending scale these are the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, beasts, fighting demons, human beings, and devas. 6 The four modes of rebirth are through the womb, through eggs hatched outside the body, through moisture, an
View more...


Copyright ©2017 KUPDF Inc.